Desmond Tutu: Anti-child bride campaigners mourn loss of Archbishop

Co-founder of Girls Not Brides said Archbishop Desmond Tutu 'pledged to bring the same determination to ending child marriage that he brought to fighting apartheid'

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An organisation which campaigns against child marriage has described Archbishop Desmond Tutu as a “committed advocate for gender equality”.

Mabel van Oranje, co-founder of Girls Not Brides, said Tutu’s work was “crucial” in the creation of Girls Not Brides: The Global Partnership to End Child Marriage.

The partnership, which consists of more than 1,500 members, works to give women and girls an equal status to men and boys so that they can achieve their full potential.

Ms van Oranje added that the pair became friends when he was chairman of The Elders, a group of independent global leaders working together for peace and human rights.

She said in a statement: “Arch was always willing to stand up for those who were unheard. I remember the day he learned that two out of every five girls in sub-Saharan Africa are married before the age of 18. He was shocked that such abuse was taking place on his continent, and realised it was because these girls had no say in their lives, no voice.

“Arch immediately pledged to bring the same determination to ending child marriage that he brought to fighting apartheid.

“Arch was a committed advocate for gender equality and he did so with his wonderful mixture of profound faith and good humour: ‘God isn’t stupid’, he said, ‘He created Eve because Adam couldn’t make it on his own’.”

Mary Robinson, chairwoman of The Elders, the first female president of Ireland and a former UN High Commissioner of Human Rights, said Tutu was “dearly loved by so many”.

“I will never forget when we met girls who had been married as children in the Amhara region of Ethiopia in 2011,” she said.

“Arch asked this young woman about her wedding day. She replied, ‘It was the day I had to leave school’. It broke his heart and made him a fierce advocate for ending child marriage.

“In our work to promote the rights of girls, Arch would say that he felt as strongly about addressing child marriage as he felt about ending apartheid. He publicly argued that traditions are human-made and can therefore be changed. He also never hesitated to point out the leadership role that men can and should play in advancing gender equality.

“Arch cared deeply about every single human life. The world has lost one of its brightest lights and he will be sorely missed.”